Shacking Up

The Ins and Outs of Cohabitation

Jennifer Maerz

wedding

Living together can seem like the perfect compromise. There aren't any rings involved, but you can still do cute couple things like shop for groceries together and share an underwear drawer. But before you start boxing up your compact discs and salivating at the thought of sex every night, take some time to think about what it means to live together.

"I moved in with my girlfriend after five months of going out," says James, 23. "We figured we were already at each others' houses anyway, so we might as well save on rent. It became a total nightmare. The closer she got to my personal life, the more jealous she became. It got so I couldn't even have a girl I was friends with call without getting yelled at," he remembers. "It totally ruined the relationship."

The real problem with living together is when it doesn't work out.
James's situation can be all too common for couples who rush into living together. "A lot of people are very naive, and they get into living together without knowing all the facts," says Dr. Thomas Wise, director of research at the Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "They move in with the rationalization that it's easier than getting married because if it doesn't work out, you don't have to get divorced. It ignores the idea that breaking up with someone you live with is tough to do."

Not all couples who start out sharing an address end up in Splitsville, USA. Lisa, a college senior, shares a big house in Colorado with her boyfriend. "I am so busy now, working on my thesis and working part time to save some cash, that it's nice to come home to my boyfriend. If nothing else, at least we have the time when we go to bed and wake up together."

The bottom line is, you can lessen the chances of ending up with a painful fight over custody of the cat and who bought the Boogie Nights video if you're smart about when and how you live together.

It's a family thing.
First and foremost, how do your families feel about living together before marriage? You may be old enough to make decisions on your own, but do you really want to have to hide all your girlfriend's bras when mom comes for a visit? Being honest now about your plans with your family can make things a lot easier. And you won't have to jump when the phone rings over the holidays.

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